Ocular Surgery News interviewed the AMO president on his decision to retire at the end of the year and his plans for the future.
Ocular Surgery News: The big question is, why have you decided to retire from Abbott Medical Optics at this point in time?
Jim Mazzo: Well, I am not retiring until the end of the year, but the decision came about at the beginning of this year. There were three key points. The first point involves the sale of Advanced Medical Optics to Abbott 3 years ago. I had committed to a minimum of 2 years to transition AMO through Abbott. I thought it was the right thing to do. Abbott was learning the ophthalmic business, so having started AMO, I agreed to do that.
I was also able to finish my 2-year term as chairman of AdvaMed, which also ended this year.
Third, and I think the most important and most critical, is that I feel we are in a key position with strong bench strength of people as well as products. I know we are extremely well-positioned now globally, where we want to be and how we are going to continue our long-range plan. It is very satisfying to me to know that as I leave at the end of the year that we have the right people and the right products in place and are in a great place for years to come.
On a personal level, I want to take my next steps and be able to accomplish some more things like we did with AMO. I am excited by ophthalmics, so it was also for my personal philosophy to go do some things that I like.
OSN: That was the next question, if you would be staying in ophthalmology and the medical device industry.
Mr. Mazzo: I know that I love what we do. I love devices. I ran the Europe/Africa/Middle East region for Allergan for quite a few years, and so I love pharmaceuticals, too. I love the health care arena, so I will tell you that I will stay in health care and be able to do something where I enjoy building and putting companies and people in place and taking it to the next level.
OSN: You have also built a strong association with AdvaMed. Will you continue to be involved with it?
Mr. Mazzo: I have talked to Steve Ubl, AdvaMed CEO, and David Dvorak, the new chairman, and so I will continue in my role until year’s end. The Abbott role will transfer to someone we have not discussed yet, but I probably will continue to stay involved with AdvaMed in whatever I do in my next venture.
OSN: You also do a lot of charitable work. Could you discuss that and your plans for the future?
Mr. Mazzo: My wife, Kelly, and I pay a lot of attention to the ophthalmic arena, as well as other causes. Obviously in the ophthalmic arena I am very involved here in my backyard with the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute at the University of California, Irvine. Abbott is obviously committed to be involved with that, but I will stay personally involved. It has been a dream of mine to see the eye institute started and then completed.
I will continue to stay involved in all of the other charities that are both ophthalmic and non-ophthalmic because I have been in this industry for 32 years, and regardless if I continue to stay in it or not, it is part of me. In fact, to the day I leave this Earth, I will always have the ophthalmic market in my blood.
OSN: If you could name one achievement that you are most proud of in all your time at Allergan and AMO, what would that be?
Mr. Mazzo: I think the ability to spin AMO from Allergan would be the achievement that I am most proud of for several reasons. Creating a company, creating a structure, there was a lot of doubt; running it as a public entity and then successfully selling it to one of the best and largest health care companies in the world and transitioning it into that. So I would say the start, the creation, the way AMO matured, both as a public entity and now into the large corporation of Abbott, would be my proudest moment.
OSN: Who are some of the people who had the biggest impact on your management style and your success? Is there one person or a number of people?
Mr. Mazzo: I would say it is probably one key person professionally, and then there are a few others who have been and continue to be highly influential to me. Gavin Herbert has been the greatest influence on my life. He has been a mentor. He hired me in 1980, took a chance on me and was tough on me, but he really is somebody that I have the most respect for.
Then I would have to say David Pyott, CEO and chairman of Allergan, who kept me in Europe and then obviously recommended me to the board to be CEO of AMO. Michael Mussallem, the chairman and CEO of Edwards, who was on my board, has always had a huge influence on me.
Jim Rollans, who was my presiding director when I became chairman after the loss of our chairman, Bill Grant, to this day is still someone that I lean to for how to get through different experiences.
And of course, Bill Link, who I think we all know is really the guru of ophthalmology, who always taught me that you make your decision based on what is the best science. I will never forget that phrase: “What’s the best science?”
Those would be people from a business perspective. I do want to say, though, that if you want to pick one person overall that has had the greatest influence, it would have to be my wife, Kelly. Kelly and I have been married for 31 years. She has moved across the globe with me and never said to me, “This is going to be a problem.” She moved to Cincinnati, to Canada, to Italy, to London. So I would say Kelly from a personal level. And, of course, my parents, who gave me the ability to think outside of the box, who came from Italy and were important in my life. I think both business and personal relationships form you as an individual.
OSN: How would you sum up your experience in ophthalmology, and what would you like our readers to know about your future plans?
Mr. Mazzo: First off, I am not leaving now. I am staying on until the end of the year, so they can still expect that I am going to be part of them and partnering with them and AMO.
Second, I very much appreciate this industry. It is more than a job. It has been a part of my life because I have met some unbelievable people on a global scale that, at the end of the day, care about their patients. You do not hear that a lot about any business and even in medicine. Eye care professionals have a real desire to do what is best for the patient, and I have been able to meet some unbelievable people, from Dick Lindstrom, to Roger Steinert, to Matteo Piovella, to Hiroko Bissen-Miyajima — unbelievable people on a global scale who had a huge influence on my life. Additionally, becoming an elected member of the International Intraocular Implant Club is one of my greatest achievements in ophthalmology.
And then the third is that I love building companies, and I plan to continue to stay involved, as I pick my next opportunity and do what I have done in the past and enjoy staying in the health care field.